July 11, 2010

Tiger Population At An All-time Low

Since about 1900, when tiger records were first kept, their numbers are the lowest they have ever been, with conservationists warning that the world has limited time to save the species.

The World Wildlife Fund announced Saturday that the wild tiger population has now fallen to about 3,200, down from an estimated 100,000 more than a century ago.

The big cat species could soon become extinct unless urgent action is taken to prevent further hunting and loss of habitat, experts are warning.

The WWF is calling for governments in countries where tigers are still found -- which include China, India and Bangladesh -- to satisfy their commitments to double tiger numbers by 2022.

It has also urged Great Britain to apply pressure on "tiger nations" by signing a new online petition saying they do not want to live in a world without the animals.

"Without joined-up, global action right now, we are in serious danger of losing the species forever in many parts of Asia," said Diane Walkington, head of species at WWF-UK. "If we lose the tiger, not only do we lose one of the world's top predators, we will lose so much more," she added.

The campaign to protect the species has been launched to coincide with Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar, which falls in both 2010 and 2022.

Delegates from 13 countries which are home to wild tigers are scheduled to meet in Bali this coming week to discuss plans to boost tiger numbers. Countries participating in the meeting include Nepal, Russia, China and Thailand.

A global summit on tigers will be held in St Petersburg in September.

"There has never before been this level of momentum for action on tigers and governments must take advantage of it," Walkington said.

Dr. Bivash Pandav, who works with tigers for the WWF in Nepal said that once protection and enough undisturbed habitat is provided for tigers, "they breed immediately and within three or four years their numbers bounce back."

Tigers were once widespread across much of Asia, with populations as far west as Turkey and Iran. But huge interest in their thick fur, bones, and meat made them prime targets for poachers looking to make money, leading to the near extinction of the species. Habitat destruction has also lead to the rapid decline in their numbers.

Earlier this year a study showed that there were fewer than 50 wild tigers left in China.


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